White FHU Logo
White FHU Logo

Henderson, Tennessee – (Dec. 15, 2023) – The 59th Annual Freed-Hardeman University Benefit Dinner welcomed two NFL greats, turned commentators, Boomer Esiason and Phil Sims, as featured speakers for a very special evening Friday, Dec. 1. This year’s event, which also included Christmas festivities, a dinner and student entertainment, raised $1,468,436 for student scholarships.

FHU President David R. Shannon shared his enthusiasm about this successful event. “What a great night! Phil and Boomer were entertaining, and FHU’s new Legacy Jazz Ensemble was phenomenal. The meal by FHU Dining Services was the talk of the evening. Our freshman class served our guests with smiles and servants’ hearts. Christmas in the Commons was complete with costumed carolers, horse and carriage rides, and a Merry Market – all complemented with warm drinks and blankets. It was festively delightful.”

Ted Williams, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Ryan Merritt, president of the Student Government Association, were also guests in the program. They spoke to an audience of FHU supporters about the university’s positive impact, not only in the lives of its students but also in the world.

The newly formed FHU Legacy Jazz Ensemble, led by Dr. Michael Yopp, entertained the crowd before the evening’s headline speakers. FHU’s provost, Dr. C.J. Vires, even stepped in to direct the ensemble for one piece.

During a talk-show-style interview with Shannon, Esiason and Sims addressed an “auditorium full of givers” to discuss their own personal lives, backgrounds and influences. Shannon asked both men to share their feelings about the importance of investing in the future of students and about their own desire to give back to the people and programs that helped shape them.

“My school is what changed my life – the people, my friends,” Sims said, in discussing his own alma mater, Morehead State College. “The memories that we all know, the great memories of college, help you grow up and become independent and all these wonderful things.”

Esiason, who is now a strong advocate for cystic fibrosis research and assistance, shared his own personal goals. “My whole life is now about paying it forward and giving other people opportunities,” he said.

The evening concluded with a very special preview announcement for next year’s landmark event. To celebrate its 60th anniversary, the next benefit fundraiser will be held in Nashville, Tennessee, in the legendary Ryman Auditorium. Freed-Hardeman University’s Celebration at the Ryman will take place Thursday, Jan. 16, 2025.

The mission of Freed-Hardeman University is to help students develop their God-given talents for His glory by empowering them with an education that integrates Christian faith, scholarship and service. With locations in Henderson and Memphis, FHU offers bachelor’s, master’s, specialist and doctoral degrees. More information is available at fhu.edu.